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Oct 06

MUNGO JERRY – “In The Summertime”

FT + Popular32 comments • 3,762 views

#288, 13th June 1970

“In The Summertime” comes close to being a genuine guilty pleasure. Not because of the track’s charmingly rickety arrangement, or its lopsided shuffle beat, but because those elements make this pen-portrait of an idle young blade’s life all too seductive. “We’re not bad people, we’re not dirty, we’re not mean. We love everybody but we do what we please.” – and who they please, too. Mungo Jerry’s elegant wastrels remind me a little of the rich older boys I distantly knew at school, whose life I imagined (half in disgust, half in envy) to be one long ball: actually they probably spent the summer mooching around just like I did. But I don’t think my experiences have much to do with the appeal of the record – disapproval and delight at others’ wicked lives are old, old emotions, and so is the sense that Summertime is for the young and selfish.

My first encounter with Mungo Jerry’s record was on an oldies TV show which paired the song with video of sideburned Edwardian toffs on an endless sepia-toned jolly. Ever since then the rhythm has brought to mind a penny farthing, something absurd and antique but oddly appealing. The band almost sabotage their own song with their hokey “oohs” and “alright alright”s – harking back to Top Cat and forward to “Hey Ya!” – but somehow it works. Of all summertime hits this is the ripest – the fat, lazy, entitled sound of a season on the brink of turning rotten.

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Comments

  1. 1
    rosie on 5 Oct 2006 #

    It has the distinction of being the first Number One that I first heard on John Peel’s Sunday afternoon show – not normally a place one heard chart material.

    It was a bit of a novelty at the time, too – a ‘maxi’ single, the size of a 45 but to be played at 33 1/3 rpm. No doubt there were lots of other maxi-singles at the time but the one I really remember was Ten Years After’s Love Like A Man. Alvin Lee was better looking, I think, than Ray Dorset! Both songs formed the soundtrack to one of the most memorable summers of my life, for it was the summer I first discovered sex down in the south of France where I spent much of August. And for other reasons, too, this is up there with my favourite summer sounds.

  2. 2
    wwolfe on 5 Oct 2006 #

    “Yellow River” followed by Mungo Jerry – the intense memory of my own childhood overwhelms any attempt at critical distance.

    One summer day, my friends and I were floating on inflatable rafts on a lake in the middle of a pleasant neighborhood in our small town. From the portable radio resting on the lake bank drifted the sound of “In the Summertime.” Forever after, one small bit of my personal version of Fitzgerald’s green light would come courtesy of Mungo Jerry. Not sure how F. Scott would feel about that.

    This strikes me as the last gasp of the “good time” music popular in the States before Vietnam heated up, and the idea of Hippie rose as a symbol of opposition. The Lovin’ Spoonful, Sopwith Camel, a stray Donovan or Mamas and Papas cut here and there, the Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine”: by 1970, this was not so much a lost art, but a vanished state of mind. The Oil Crisis of a few years later perhaps put the final nail in the coffin of this sub-genre for perfectly practical reasons: it’s tough to have a classic summer single when gas is too expensive for teenagers to cruise around all summer, listening to the radio.

  3. 3
    bramble on 5 Oct 2006 #

    On the back of the success of In the Summertime, Mungo Jerry brought out an LP with a full cover photograph and a pair of cardboard coloured glasses which made Ray Dorset and co appear in 3D when you looked at the photo. In some ways the goodtime sound of In the Summertime was a throwback to skiffle, perfect for open air festivals,and as the original group rapidly disintegrated their sound turned more to rock. Because of the perennial success of this record, it’s easy to forget that their follow-up, Baby Jump, was also a number one and they- or Ray Dorset and sidemen- continued to have sporadic hits till 1974, which was also about the time Ray Dorset finally lost planning permission for his sideboards.

  4. 4
    intothefireuk on 5 Oct 2006 #

    Always used to get this one mixed up with The Mixtures’ Pushbike Song & Terry Dactyl’s Seaside Shuffle both of which use the same jug band skiffle rhythm. The simplified blues pattern suggests a DIY back to basics ethic which was part of a backlash against the increasingly sophisticated studio based music being produced at the time. This backlash would eventually culminate in first Glam and then Punk. Does this mean Ray Dorset was the UKs answer to Iggy Pop ? Possibly not. The record also has amazingly un-PC lyrics and was famously used to illustrate the dangers of drink driving during a Christmastime TV campaign IIRC. BTW Ray Dorset hails from my home town (which is possibly its only claim to fame) and still plays regularly in local venues.

  5. 5
    Erithian on 6 Oct 2006 #

    Yes, in a sense this is another example of one’s perception of a record being altered by its use in an advertising campaign. I’ve seen footage of Mungo Jerry doing this song, and it’s as aspirational as a hip-hop video – but for the bling-laden motor, read the idyllic lifestyle of Ray Dorset sitting around strumming his guitar on a languid summer’s day – a lifestyle for which it probably helps to be one of Tom’s rich older boys (mind you I had a similar impression watching a Levellers video).

    But then the government information film put paid to the idyll. I don’t know how dodgy lines like “speed along a lane, do a ton or a ton and 25” or “have a drink, have a drive, go out and see what you can find” sounded in 1970, but now many of us have had imprinted on those lines the image of a horrific car smash.

    Still a classic evocative summer record though. And after Mungo Jerry’s other number one, Ray Dorset reappears on this list in ten years’ time…

  6. 6
    Marcello Carlin on 6 Oct 2006 #

    I never thought that much of the record and am unreasonably prejudiced against it since it kept both Groovin’ With Mr Bloe and Lola off number one during its seven-week run.

    It also kept All Right Now at number two but then in my warped world that’s No Bad Thing.

  7. 7
    Tommy Mack on 6 Oct 2006 #

    “In the summertime when the weather is hot
    You can reach right down and touch your cock.”

    That is what we used to sing in school.

  8. 8
    Pete Baran on 6 Oct 2006 #

    Could you not reach it when it was cold? Is this something to do with the expansion of solids due to heat?

  9. 9
    intothefireuk on 6 Oct 2006 #

    Yes we really should have a companion series to popular featuring the singles that only made it to no.2 which should also lead to some marvellous toilet humour.

  10. 10
    Tommy Mack on 7 Oct 2006 #

    Pete – oddly enough my mum caught my brother and I singing this and said ‘surely you’d be more likely to do it in winter, when it is cold, to keep it warm?’ or words to that effect. This is indicative of the amoral bohemian environment in which I grew up and probably led to me becoming the dissafected, directionless wastrel I am today.

    Thanks, Mum.

  11. 11

    pete and tommy, i think you are underestimatin the subtlety here — “in wintertime you WILL ect ect” is of course assumed; what is bein claimed is that “[implied: also] in summertime you CAN [implied: still} ect ect” — this is a calling out AGAINST the lamentable falling-off of cock-touching in the warmer part of the year

  12. 12
    markgamon on 7 Oct 2006 #

    I came back from some festival or other with this ringing in my ears and a torn packet of Rizlas in my pocket. It summed up the summer perfectly, and a battered copy is still up in my loft somewhere. Funny – I don’t remember it being a maxi-single, but then I haven’t played it since 1970-something.

    A fun record. A happy record. A record that still makes me want to smile and sing along. Kind of like ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’ or ‘Singing in the Rain’.

    It’s not philosophy, it’s probably sexist (aw, who cares really?), and it is absolutely connected to the whole American Livin Spoonful vibe, right down to the Jug Band thing.

    A seven? Spot on, Tom.

  13. 13
    Tommy Mack on 7 Oct 2006 #

    p^nk, that’s an interesting argument, but in all honesty I think it referred to masturbating over the women who were ‘on your mind’ in the next part of the song, since women are less likely to bare flesh in the colder months and in those pre-internet days young boys couldn’t access pornography and we lacked the long-term memory to recall the bare legs and bosoms we’d seen in the summer.

  14. 14
    bramble on 7 Oct 2006 #

    Yes it was on a maxi-single. From memory the other tracks were Mighty Man and Dust Pneumonia Blues.

  15. 15
    markgamon on 7 Oct 2006 #

    Surely remembering the names of the OTHER tracks on the maxi-single deserves some sort of prize?

  16. 16
    Chris Brown on 7 Oct 2006 #

    Well, this thread has certainly been an education to me – even though I’ve heard this song thousands of times I never really learnt what all the words were. And just to echo what’s been pointed out already, I remember that when I was a kid Mungo Jerry were held up as a sort of definitive one-hit wonder so I was quite surprised to note how many other hits they had – though never curious enough to have heard another one of their songs from that day to this.

  17. 17
    Doctor Mod on 12 Oct 2006 #

    Well, it was an incredible summer, for me at least. Never one like it before or after. This song, along with “Yellow River,” “Lola,” and “All Right Now” were the soundtrack to those months.

    For me to say any more would be to lapse into total subjectivity. Enough said.

  18. 18
    Erithian on 12 Oct 2006 #

    I dunno Doc – sounds like you and Rosie could both go way off topic and keep this thread going for a long time!!

  19. 19
    Marcello Carlin on 12 Oct 2006 #

    The song makes me think of Pink Panther chocolate bars, which were on sale at that time and were actually made of pink chocolate.

  20. 20
    Lena on 22 Oct 2006 #

    I don’t know what it is about this song that actually makes it kind of scary for me – maybe because it goes out of its way to be so good-natured? Lyrics where people say they are “hap-happy” and where you treat a woman according to her father’s wealth (or lack of it) make me uneasy, to say the least.

  21. 21
    George Kruger on 22 Aug 2009 #

    This song has a very special and original sound. Maybe it has jug or skiffle-roots – but also mixed with a special latin music- and merengue-feeling. Summer spell… And the singing is so great! Different other artists tried to cover this song: Mixtures, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Shaggy & Rayvon etc. But In The Summertime is not In The Summertime without this singing from Ray Dorset with two different voices. Nearly ITS-sound from Shaggy is close to the sound of Mungo. No hasard – Mr. Mungo Ray Dorset was producing the music himself for Shaggy playing all guitars.

  22. 22
    Waldo on 4 Sep 2009 #

    As has been mentioned, this happy litle song is full of danger – speeding along lanes and drinking and driving. It’s not wise to do either. I too remember Pink Panther chocolate bars around this time. Boys could safely eat these since they were embossed with an image of PP and what could be more natural than for the bar to be pink? Being caught tucking into a Fab ice lolly was an entirely different matter. Fabs (pink ice and topped with hundreds and thousands) were for girls only and were advertised by Lady Penelope. Boys ate Zooms. It was as simple as that.

  23. 23
    IJGrieve on 14 Jan 2011 #

    I was pondering whether to give this classic a 9 or a 10 on the readers vote, thinking 7 was surely too low – only to find the average is 5.9!?!

  24. 24
    Lena on 23 Apr 2012 #

    An eventual club banger: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/44-on-floor-mr-bloe-groovin-with-mr.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  25. 25
    Lena on 24 Apr 2012 #

    Rockin’ all over the parking lot: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/hard-rock-calling-free-all-right-now.html Merci for reading, everyone!

  26. 26
    speedwell54 on 16 Oct 2012 #

    Re 4- intothefireuk .

    Not sure if this was somewhere in your subconscious, but The Mixtures did do a cover version of “In the Summertime”. No idea if it got any airplay, certainly not a hit over here, but both this, and “The Pushbike Song” were No1 in Australia for them in ’70/’71.

  27. 27
    enitharmon on 8 Mar 2013 #

    Here’s a conundum: where to say goodbye to one of the rock gods of my youth, Alvin Lee. I wish he could have held on for another year and then I could honestly have said that he died ten years after I saw him live at the Hexagon, Reading, alongside Edgar Winter.

    Anyway, I see I have already alluded to the tenuous connection with Mungo Jerry; the gimmick of the summer was the 33rpm ‘maxi-single’, of which both In The Summertime and TYA’s Love Like A Man were prominent examples. Alvin’s demise seems to be getting surprisingly little publicity compared to Kevin Ayers a week ago; I’d have thought that Alvin was easily the more widely known of the two. The riff from Love Like A Man must have been picked out by zillions of wannabe guitarists.

  28. 28

    Lots more notice in the US, interestingly.

  29. 29
    koganbot on 9 Mar 2013 #

    I’m guessing (though I don’t know if this is true) that the Woodstock movie was more a media thing in America than in the UK, and it was Ten Years After’s “I’m Going Home” live at Woodstock (as put on film, that is) that really put Ten Years After on the musical map here. Not that too many people here seem to know anything else they did (and I include myself among the general unknowing).

    I thought it was a real wanky performance at the time. Now I really appreciate it. (Not to say that I’ve decided it’s entirely unwanky. I’ve changed my attitude towards that kind of wanky.)

  30. 30
    hectorthebat on 12 Jun 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Zig Zag (UK) – Gillett & Frith’s Hot 100 Singles (1975)
    Panorama (Norway) – The 30 Best Singles of the Year 1970-98 (1999) 9
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  31. 31
    weej on 22 Dec 2016 #

    Just came across the 1990s Mungo Jerry drink-driving PSA, and it’s lost none of its power in the last 20 years. Think it’s forever tainted the song for me too – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5ma_Xv7rGM

  32. 32
    Paulito on 26 Dec 2016 #

    Has Ray Dorset ever been known to comment on said ad or on the implications of THAT line?

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